The Concept of Truth and the Interpretation of Scripture

By Gordon Anderson

In most seminaries and academic institutions, since the rise of critical methods of scholarship, scripture has been studied by applying methods of literary and historical criticism.

Literary criticism views scripture as human writing that conveys moral lessons, values and truths rather than the direct writing of God. Yet, it does not deny the existence of God or imply that the writing is not important to read for attaining a better personal life, a better world or closeness to God.

Historical criticism investigates the historical world around the origin of the ancient texts to better understand the worldviews that shaped the writing and aids dating of writings and events.

Here, I propose the concept of “truth criticism” as a further tool of scriptural analysis.

Theories of Truth and the Interpretation of Scripture

One part of the truth criticism I propose is based on an integral view of truth. On this site last year, Dr. Keisuke Noda described four theories of truth that have evolved since ancient times. These are: the correspondence theory of truth, coherence theory of truth, pragmatic theory of truth, and existential theory of truth. Since each of these approaches describes ways in which something can be viewed to be true, the integral theory of truth Dr. Noda proposes enables us to see in which ways something being studied is “true” and which ways it is not.

For example, historical criticism tells us that the Ten Commandments are very similar to core elements of the Hammurabi Code found on a stone stele in Persia, now on display in the Louvre. This seems to disconfirm the “correspondence theory of truth,” or literal interpretation of the Bible, that these commandments were introduced by a supernatural event in which they miraculously appeared on tablets in Mount Sinai. Those commandments were part of a larger body of knowledge that Moses could have inherited and believed to be essential conduct for a godly society.

The idea that the commandments were emblazoned by fire from a supernatural being could well be a literary device.

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Physical Proof of Spiritual Energy

By Lloyd Pumphrey

There are “invisible” spiritual influences which affect people without their realizing it.

This article considers phenomena that reinforce and may prove the existence of these non-physical forces.

Initially, I intended to research “physical proof of spirit world.” However, after consideration and discussion with others, I realized there is no way to “physically” prove the existence of spirit world.  The only way to prove its existence is to open one’s spiritual senses.

There have been many attempts to demonstrate the existence of spirit world, such as The Afterlife Experiments by Gary E. Schwartz. The major flaw in these experiments was the participation of well-known spiritual mediums.  This is evidence that the only proof of spirit world or afterlife is the testimony of those who can, or have, seen it for themselves.

For the skeptic, in order for an experiment or proof to be valid, anyone should be able to experience it. For example, it is impossible for a male to experience the pain of childbirth.  He can see it, empathize with it, share the experience with his wife, but cannot feel the actual pain of childbirth.

The same goes for spirit world. Most people cannot see or feel spirit world; therefore, it cannot be proven to a skeptic on a basic level.

However, by considering proofs of spiritual energy, we may come to an understanding of it as a building block of the spirit world. Spiritual energy can and has been measured for some time through various means.

External evidence of spiritual energy

Qi is vital energy that is held to animate the body internally and is of central importance in some Eastern systems of medical treatment (such as acupuncture) and of exercise or self-defense. It is the Chinese term for spiritual energy. There have been countless books written on Qi, but some of the most convincing proofs are filmed demonstrations that can be viewed on YouTube.

Several Qi masters, including monks and healers, have allowed themselves to be filmed showing their ability to control people’s movements without touching them, setting paper on fire, turning mud into dust, and treating patients.

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Climate Change and Citizen Involvement

By Rob Sayre

At an October meeting in South Korea, the working group of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a revised report on the Paris Climate Agreement. It makes new forecasts, based upon new data assuming average world temperature rises 1.5 degrees C. compared to 2.0 degrees.

In my earlier article on this blog, “Climate Change: Rethinking the Debate,” I argued that only using one metric was insufficient and proposed others. This article considers the implications of the new IPCC proposals to help people understand them and offer some new thoughts and solutions. It is meant to complement Dr. J. Andrew Combs’ article last week on this site.

Probability vs. prediction

Conveying large and complex concepts and data that include probabilities can paralyze the general public. People confuse these with predictions like the weather forecasts they use everyday to plan their commutes to work and daily life. Probabilities with degrees of confidence do not mobilize people to act. Why is this?

Two cognitive biases come into play for both ardent believers in climate change and those who think it is a hoax.

The first is anchoring, the tendency to rely too heavily, or “anchor,” on one trait or piece of information when making decisions (usually the first piece of information acquired on that subject). We tend to incorporate how we see an issue in its most simple explanation. This is as true for “deniers” as for “believers.” These labels by themselves say a lot about the veracity of this bias.

Those who doubt humankind’s role in climate change also show another bias: the ambiguity effect, the tendency to avoid options for which missing information makes the probability seem unknown. Very simply, complex probabilities that form the basis for assessing climate change seem fantastic and unrealistic for many.

Everyone is comfortable with predictions in weather, economics and elections to some degree. We accept that, within a margin of error, we are able to order our lives and make decisions. Probabilities, especially when they involve large sets of data, the climate, world GDP, exchange rates, and elections set for a time in the future, can be easily discounted.

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Climate Change: Is It Real? If So, How Much and How Fast? And, What Then?

By J. Andrew Combs

The climate change debate should be a scientific discussion, but it has become more of a political one. The political discourse, along with the money it can bring to grant funding, has infected the scientific community and its objectivity. This makes what is already a complex scientific problem a difficult sociological one.

If science seeks to advise politicians, it must be objective; but objectivity has been to an extent lost, especially among scientific leadership. We must be able to sort out the politics and misinformation from the truth and correct information if we are to make good decisions as a society going forward.

The camps.The basic debate is between two polarized advocacy camps: the “human-made global warming” camp and the “skeptics” camp. The human-made global warming camp asserts our climate is warming due to excessive pollution of our atmosphere with greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) from our dependence upon fossil fuels. And warming is producing sea-level rise and changes in weather patterns that will yield negative, damaging results.

The “skeptics” claim that while there may be warming, it is most likely caused by natural cycles. A key difference is the human-made global warming camp insists on action such as global taxation (e.g., carbon credits) to control greenhouse gas emissions, while the skeptics say our actions are not only ineffective in changing nature, but unfair, as it is poor nations who want cheap energy (e.g., coal burning) to gain wealth and prosperity and advance into the league of advanced industrialized nations.

The increasing polarization of the camps into extreme views — “alarmist” claims of cascading catastrophes (such as offered by a recent U.S. government report) vs. outright “denial” of the human-made global warming hypothesis some skeptics hold to (like radio host Michael Savage) — is unhelpful. So are false assertions that conflate weather with climate, or that justify any unusual event as due to “climate change;”  these attitudes inevitably lead to irresponsible governance.

Just look at California governor Jerry Brown, who laid blame for the recent terrible forest fires in California to “climate change” while many others saw such fires coming due to the buildup of pine and other natural fuels (e.g., the former fire chief of Paradise, who quit a year before the “Camp Fire” because of these dangers that local and state authorities refused to address).

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Adding Tools for Building a New World

By Rob Sayre

One assumption suggested by the Divine Principle and Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon’s theology is that applying the fundamental lessons and tools for the individual and family to ever-larger spheres will produce similar results as can occur on the individual and family levels.

It is my experience and belief that we also need improved tools to build successful extended families, tribes, communities, nations, and a world of peace.

This article discusses a few tools and provides a cursory overview that can aid in building a culture and communities centered upon God. It builds upon my previous article, “Converting Good Intentions into Results.” The tools discussed were used in the development of the Shehaqua Ministries.

First, some introductory quotes on leadership and the family as the cornerstone of society:

“The man of perfect virtue, wishing to be established himself, seeks also to establish others; wishing to be enlarged himself, he seeks also to enlarge others.” Analects 6.28 (Confucianism)

“The Way lies at hand yet it is sought afar off, the thing lies in the easy yet it is sought in the difficult. If only everyone loved his parents and treated his elders with deference, the Empire would be at peace.” Mencius IVA (Confucianism)

“Family education determines the future destiny of the entire nation. When there are many families living by the principle of public service, the nation will flourish; when there are many families living with a private standard, the nation will perish.” (31:243) Rev. Sun Myung Moon, June 4, 1970

Do Good and Righteous People Create Good and Effective Organizations?

The simple answer is: not necessarily. It’s true that without a quorum of righteous people in any community, organization or nation, creating a good society is a tough slog. New tools, however, make the job easier and more people can be involved in the effort.

The tools of Cain-Abel relationships, leadership and governance rooted in biblical stories and Confucian thought applied to the individual, family, and extended family provide valuable insights into Western culture and indeed the world.

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Do Animals Have Eternal Souls?

By Peter Stephenson

What happens to animals when they die is a question many people wonder about, especially those who form close bonds with animals.

Do animals experience the meaningless oblivion that atheists insist await us all or do they transition to another plane as people of faith believe is their own fate after the body fails?

As we observe animals give and receive joy, love, and also suffer true grief over the loss of their offspring or human companions, it is difficult to still hold that they do not have a soul.

But nor is it easy to imagine that, on completion of our life on earth, we transfer to the afterlife to find it teeming with the souls of every biological creature that has ever lived like some overstocked Jurassic Park — tens of millions of years’ worth of T-Rex’s and every other dinosaur that ever lived and died on earth.

The former is hard to accept as we have experience of forming deep and reciprocal loving bonds with animals, and as love is a spiritual element, that would imply there is something spiritual being loved by us and returning love to us.

The latter is hard to accept because it just seems so bizarre that thousands of trillions of animals would pile up in the afterlife as the earth and possibly other planets swarm and crawl with creatures in a continuous generational cycle.

But life and existence itself is bizarre when you think about it. Something cannot be said to be untrue just because it seems bizarre. In any case, the real estate in the afterlife may well accommodate any number of arrivals. However, believing something exists because we have a deep emotional and spiritual relationship with it is quite rational.

“Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:21)

The idea that animals do not have souls has no scriptural basis. It’s just something people communally decided. In my view, they did so to artificially accentuate their own importance in the scheme of things and to God. This came from insecurity as it is not actually necessary to establish uniqueness in order to have intrinsic eternal value and to be counted as a child of God. Others need not be excluded so that we can be included. Our status before God is not a zero sum game.

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Fish Follow the Fisherman

By Allan Hokanson

In the early 1960s, in the little-known land of Korea, a man with a great vision had begun the work of developing the ocean’s resources by tending fish traps on the coastal mud flats.

He then looked toward the oceans of the world with the heart to provide food for all humankind facing the world’s growing population and the shrinking resources on land.

Meanwhile, across the ocean in the USA, and unknown to me, I was being prepared to take up the challenge of a life with God on the ocean. From the day I stepped aboard a boat bound for Alaska in 1966, my life would never be the same.

In a few years, our paths would converge. Rev. Sun Myung Moon came to America in the early 1970s with a plan that included unlocking the secrets of the ocean.

As the first captain of his boat, the New Hope, I had the great fortune to be with him from the beginning of the ocean providence in America. Suddenly I found myself at the controls of a high-performance sport fishing boat with Rev. Moon at my side — his life in my hands.

The hours at the controls seemed unending as records fell to this extremely successful fisherman. Every day the first three fish were released so they could “bring back their friends,” and it seemed to work as we loaded the boat with them all.

However, more important than navigation skills was my need to unite in heart with True Father (as I came to know him). I was determined to keep up and have the boat ready whenever he was ready to go.

Father never slept on the boat for more than three hours a night. Also, he never ate more than one meal on the boat each day.

Sometimes, his directions were contrary to my own thinking or experience. In such cases, it became necessary to let go of my concepts and find a way to accomplish his desire safely.

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A Layman’s Cosmology: Speculation on Earth’s Evolution and the Emergence of Humankind

By Henry Christopher

In “A Layman’s Cosmology: Speculation on the Origin of Existence and God,” I speculated “It would appear that Existence might be likened to a vast, endless sea of particles and atoms, with the potential, as Aristotle saw it, to be made into an infinite variety of substances. All that was wanting was a being with the mind to create.” I noted a Creator with a consciousness to love and bring about harmony in creation — modeled after His/Her own being — emerged from this sea of existence.

This article explores the possibilities of how God worked through the evolution of the earth to prepare for the arrival of humankind.

Scientists tell us the universe is 13.8 billion years old, while the earth is 4.5 billion years old. In our reckoning, that is a long period: plenty of time for the Creator to experiment, test, prepare, and develop step-by-step an ideal physical environment and introduce humankind to that world.

According to geological evidence, earth scientists have divided the history of the planet into major eras, periods and epochs in order to track the evolution of earth’s chemical, geological, biological, and climate events. It took four billion years for earth to form out of a volcanic, molten mass, and for life to be introduced.

First, in the Precambrian Era, major developments took place to make the earth capable of supporting life: earth’s molten mass had to cool off and form a solid crust; the chemical composition of the atmosphere had to develop, water introduced, and oceans formed. During the first billion years, a magnetic field formed around the earth, which kept the planet’s atmosphere from dissipating into the vast solar system. Without our atmosphere, life on earth would not exist, as is the case with the Moon and other planets in our solar system.

The evolution of plants, fish and animals started in the sea, where they remained for at least 600 million years. In the absence of a protective ozone layer, the land was bathed in lethal levels of UV radiation. Once photosynthesis raised atmospheric oxygen levels high enough, the ozone layer formed, making it possible for living things to venture onto the land.

The Paleozoic Era or “Age of Fishes” came next, lasting 325 million years, with the introduction of amphibians and insects.

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A Layman’s Cosmology: Speculation on the Origin of Existence and God

By Henry Christopher

Cosmology is the study of the origin, evolution and eventual fate of the universe. It is studied by both scientists and philosophers, can include scientific and non-scientific propositions, and may depend upon assumptions that cannot be tested.

Here, I offer a speculative layman’s cosmology which does not claim to present a scientifically verifiable conclusion on this subject. I adopt a more philosophical point of view. However, as much as possible, I believe we should seriously take into account leading scientific theories of the day.

Although the existence of God has neither been proven nor disproven, from a scientific point of view, my thoughts on existence stem from a layman’s logic, intuition and common sense which indicate that a Creator, rather than chance, is the origin not only of all things, but necessarily of all principles and orderliness of the world around us.

Not from randomness or chaos do the stars and planets in the sky stay put in their individual orbits day after day, year after year, but by the mathematical plan of a Creator. This is not just a belief, but a logical notion — a reasonable outcome of probability — that the chances are more likely the universe came about through the existence of a purposeful intellect than by some extraordinary accident.

This conclusion has been held by some of the most prominent astrophysicists, mathematicians and other scientists, including Fred Hoyle, Cambridge University astrophysicist, and Owen Gingerich, senior astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

Writing on this very point, Roger Penrose, Oxford University mathematical physicist, said,

“…the only alternative to the universe arising from chance is for it to have arisen deliberately. Deliberate action requires a conscious creator (read: God). And for those who are still tempted to conclude that our universe is just the result of a very extremely improbable accident, I explain in “Why God? Why not just plain luck?” why bare probability (chance), alone, can never cause anything… let alone the creation of a universe.”

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